Book Review: Private Lessons by M. Lush

Dee Turner is barn manager at Deepdale Acres, a job that sounds more glamorous than it is.  Thrown into a rivalry against the perfect, rich, stunningly-talented and most importantly-clean-Sandra; does Dee have a chance to win the man of her dreams?

Michele Lee uses the pseudonym M. Lush when writing romance.  She’s a hopeless romantic who misses her barn days.  It shows in this 7 chapter, 46 page story.  She vividly describes the horses and the land that I could picture a day at Deepdale Acres without having to step foot onto it.

If you’re not an animal lover, it is worth reading those passages to get to the interaction between Dee and Ben.  As the title suggests, Dee gives him private lessons on how to ride a horse.  This book shows how they react to their attraction to one another.

  • I really enjoyed the main character Dee.  She was funny (I love humor where people are able to laugh at themselves) and realistic about her situation.  I like that she didn’t lose her sense of self trying to get Ben’s attention.
  • I related to all the characters.  I understood how Dee felt with her jealousy over Sandra.  At first, I could see why Sandra was so disliked, but the twist at the end had me sympathizing with her.

It was a fast read.  I enjoyed this cute love story.  I like that it wasn’t full of purple prose.

  • The author was impressive in showing how her characters loved and appreciated their horses, so the ending fits perfectly with the story.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

For more information on the book or the author, please visit:

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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Character Sketch VS. Character Profile

CHARACTER SKETCH

A character sketch is used to describe your character’s appearance and personality traits.  It’s the first step to know your characters in your own words.

If you like to draw, then you can sketch your characters.  You wouldn’t have to describe their appearance in words because there would be a visual instead.  Or, you can cut out pictures of a celebrity, who your character looks like.

I list their name, height, age, ethnicity, occupation, and personality traits.  I don’t write in complete sentences or get specific with details.  I give the main points; that is it.  Being brief and straight to the point works for me, but it doesn’t mean your character sketches have to be that way.  Maybe you want to make it fancy by using complete sentences, or putting everything in paragraph form instead of simply listing.

There is nothing wrong with any approach as long as you feel confident that you understand your characters enough.

CHARACTER PROFILE

A character profile is a more advanced way to sketch out your characters.  It should be the last thing you do before starting a rough draft.  It brings your characters to life.  Your characters get to describe themselves.  The questions on my profile start out as “Are you…?” “Do you…?”

When I fill out a character profile, I have fun with it.  I pretend like my main characters are being interviewed for a reality TV show.  This involves  getting inside my character’s head, so it’s a role playing exercise.

These are the questions on my character profile:

Name:

Gender:

Age:

Ethnicity:

Homestate:

Live currently:

Top 3 personality traits:

Occupation:

Birthday:

Favorite colors:

Favorite foods:

Favorite music:

Favorite TV shows:

Favorite magazines:

What do you do when you get upset?

What do you do when you get sad?

What do you do when you get happy?

What do you do when you get stressed?

Describe your childhood.

Describe your family and friends.

How would some of your family members/friends describe you?

Ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?

How do you drive?  Ever get road rage?

Do you curse?  If not, are you uncomfortable around it?

Would you ever throw anyone under the bus or use them as a scapegoat?

Thrive off drama or would you rather live in peace?

What’s your conflict/arguing style?

Do you view things in black/white terms or are you able to see the gray side of things?

Charming?

A lot of friends or loner?

Boring or interesting?

Glass half full or half empty?

Whether have beauty or brains?

Sensitive or thick skin?

Are you a private person?

Are you independent?

Do you think you’re a good or bad person?

Arrogant or lacking confidence?

Couch potato or exercise?

What’s your type on a romantic level?

Do you get jealous or envious?

Do you like sex?

Do you feel sexy or cute?

Do you want children?

Do you want to get married?

Do you have a significant other?  If so, describe your relationship.

Would you ever cheat on a significant other?

What’s your hobbies?

Do you like to party?

What’s your dream job and how successful would you like to be at it?

Rebel or someone who follows rules?

Leader or follower?

Messy or neat?

Are you competitive?

Do you take directions/orders well?

Are you a team player or do you like to work by yourself?

Love or hate to travel?

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10 Ways To Come Up With Story Ideas

The author Josip Novakovich states that imagination can be described as “Don’t kiss and do tell as if you did kiss”.  Whatever method you choose, exaggerate.  Change the details.  Make new characters.  And, most importantly have fun.  There’s nothing wrong with basing your story idea off something else, as long as you make it your own.

1.  Experience

Write what you know.  It can be productive to write about a situation you’ve been through.  Or, you can write about someone else’s experience.

2.  Movies

When I write, I think of every scene like it could appear on screen.  So, it’s only natural to get some story ideas from movies.

  • After watching Harriet the Spy as a kid, I created  short stories about a detective club solving mysteries around the neighborhood.

3.  TV Shows

If you like how a particular season went, you can base a story off of that.  If you liked a particular episode, scene, or character, you could use that as well.

4.  Novels

Can find inspiration from a chapter, entire book, a quote.

5.  Songs

You could use an entire song or just a lyric.

  • I love “Butterfly” by Mariah Carey.  My theme in my stories is a character keeps their distance thinking it is for the best, but the other person doesn’t agree.

6.  Setting

You could use your fascination with a place to create a plot around it.

  • I’m curious about North Pole, Alaska.  It would be fun to write a short story where a few friends take a vacation there.

7.  Plot

Use your fascination with what happens and how it happens.

  • Say you’re interested in writing a novel about a group of friends who are being killed one by one by a psycho killer.  You have the plot-now, it’d be interesting to think who the killer is, why is he killing them, in what ways, and how do they try to escape.

8.  Scene

You can be interested with a certain event.

  • It could be a scene where a woman goes on a blind date that was refreshing instead of dreadful.  Why did she go on the date?  Who set it up?  Why is she single in the first place?  What happens after the date?

9.  Dialogue

You could have a certain conversation stuck in your head.

  • You may know you want two characters arguing over something.  How do they know each other?  Do they resolve their conflict or stay mad at each other?  What led up to the argument, and what’s the aftermath?

10.  Character

You can construct a character and give examples of their personality throughout your story.

  • Say you’re interested in writing about a person who is a loner-not necessarily because he hates people.  He just prefers his own company.  Have him interact with a coworker.  Have him do a hobby, go on a date.  Is he nice, indifferent, or just tolerates people?

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West Virginia’s Roswell

Has there ever been a town that didn’t sit right with you, and you didn’t know why?  Where you couldn’t explain why it felt so eerie?

In mid-August 2004, I went on a RA retreat with about twenty other people.  The weekend was meant for relaxation and bonding before the school year started.

Traditionally, Summit Hall went to Deep Creek, MD.  It was only one hour and thirty minutes away from Morgantown, WV.  But, that year our boss Bob insisted on Pocahontas County, which was three hours away.  My guard was up.

As soon as we passed the Welcome to Green Bank sign, there were no people.  It was a very small town.  Houses were miles apart alongside the road with one school, one grocery store (maybe a Piggly Wiggly), and a pizza shop next to it.  Two cars sat in the entire parking lot.

Where was everyone?  Our group took three vans; we did not see any cars ahead or in the back of us in our lane.  No cars rode by on the other side.  No one hung out in their yards.  No pedestrians.  Something didn’t add up to me.

I freaked out silently in the backseat.  Small towns are typical locations for horror movies.  House of Wax, Wrong Turn, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anyone?  I pictured the locals plotting against outsiders for stepping into their territory.  If someone said “Go away”, I’d be headed for the next town to catch the Greyhound.

Bob needed directions to the campsite, so we stopped in the parking lot.  No one went inside the grocery store with him.  When he came back, we asked about the radio; it was nothing but static.

Bob said, “You can’t get any signals here.  They use all their energy for a satellite dish that communicates with aliens.”

Say what now?  He said it with a straight face, like it was normal.  I knew we weren’t celebrities, but were we being punked?  On candid camera?  In the van, people joked that Bob was crazy, that he was scaring us before the campfire.  But, I wanted to go home.  I don’t play with stuff like that.

This campsite was secluded from the town (not that anyone was around anyway).  Five cabins spread out with no electricity nor locked doors.  A half mile back was a creek with a narrow bridge to cross.  Once you crossed it, you entered an open field with a pit and bleachers in the center of it.  To the left and right of us was nothing for miles and miles.  Towards the back, only woods.  Just great.

With only a few flashlights to share between twenty some people, we stayed in mini-groups.  Of course, no one wanted to stay near the cabins and vans, in case we had to make a run for it.  They wanted to hang out on the bleachers to be sitting ducks for whoever, whatever.  I had to follow the light hee hee.

Nothing but absolute darkness.  What was out there?  For being outdoors, it was completely silent.  Too silent.  My mind played tricks on me due to boredom.  I watched for bears, wolves, serial killers escaping from prison, mental patients escaping from a hospital nearby.  Oh yeah, and aliens.  Couldn’t forget the aliens.

If I’m scared, then I’ll try everything in my power to make you feel the same way.  We’ll be scared together.  I could not trust my own eyes; we all needed to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.  We all needed our guard up.

We spent two nights and three days there.  Green Bank-no interaction with people.  Cass and Seneca State Forest-many tourists around.  So once again, where was everyone in our town?  I wanted to go back to the grocery store to see if there were many ‘missing person’ posters hanging on the wall.  Or talk to the locals to see if they heard any rumors about alien abductions.  Did the kids believe in it, or did they just laugh at the older people’s superstitions?  To calm myself, I needed to find out some facts.

On our last day, Bob needed to prove he was right.  We went to the museum that held the gigantic satellite dish.  The parking lot had many tourists standing around.  Or were they pod people?  We were all shocked.  No one had believed Bob’s tale, but the evidence was right in front of our faces.  We walked the tour with everyone else.

Looking back now, the ghost town vibe makes sense.  On Wikipedia, it says Green Bank’s population was 143 people in 2010.  I can only imagine how low it was in 2004.  This explains why we didn’t see anyone.  There was no need for me to be scared.  It would’ve helped though if we stayed in the busy part of town instead of being isolated.  But, oh well.

Has anyone been to Green Bank, WV or lives there?  Has anyone visited a town that spooked them, but they didn’t know why?  Please share your comments….

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Romance Drama First Draft Completed!!!

Since August 25th of this year, I’ve worked on a romance drama.  I completed my first draft on November 18th, which is pretty good timing for a procrastinator.  I can’t really get into the details because anything from the character’s name to some plot points could very well change by the final draft.  I love my ending, but I’m iffy on the beginning.

Have you ever been so proud of something yet find it so blah at the same time?  That’s how I always feel about my first drafts.  I’m satisfied with getting my thoughts on paper, but I pray no one sees it in its rough stage.  I’m very protective of it.  Don’t even try looking over my shoulder to sneak a peek.  And, don’t judge me on it.  LOL.

My romance drama is 185 typed pages double-spaced with Arial font.  It is 49,112 words (word count is VERY IMPORTANT if you are interested in getting your book published).  Agents and publishers look to see if your manuscript (what your draft is called at its final stage) has a word count that is too high or too low.  It depends on the genre you write for.

I have a long way to go.  First, my word count is too low.  I have to work on getting that higher, so it can be considered a novel.  It’ll help when I show rather than tell.  Second, I have to flesh out my characters more.  They have to be relatable and interesting enough for readers to care about them.  Third, I have to get rid of all the passive wording and repeated phrases and words.  During the editing stages, a thesaurus is my friend.

Being very motivated to edit, I started the process this morning.  When revisions are complete, I can rewrite for my second draft.

Around the second or third draft, I won’t be afraid to let others read it.  I’m very open to constructive criticism.  There’s no point to attempt to get published, if you don’t have a readable story.

My hobby of writing stories has been a passion of mine since the age of eleven.  Recently, I’ve had a desire to try to get published, so I have to take the extra steps in getting my story in tip-top shape, instead of for my eyes only.

After my second draft, I’ll apply the editing tips in my Self-Editing for Fiction Writers book, which is a very helpful resource.

For my third draft, I will take two chapters and share them on the Absolute Write Forum.  After taking their comments into consideration, my fourth draft will be complete.  This draft will be read by one or two beta-readers, who are volunteers that take time out of their busy lives to make suggestions on your entire novel.  They should not see a draft unless you feel it is at its best.  That you’re confident to query agents with it.  After following the beta-readers suggestions, my manuscript will be formed.

I don’t want to rush my goals, but I don’t want to slack off either.  This blog is for writing tips, sharing my personal journey as a writer, and gossiping about people and situations that could become potential story ideas.  So, if you notice I haven’t written a blog post regarding my writing experience in a long time, then call me out on it.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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A Writer’s Best Friend

Writers rely on their imagination and memory to develop their stories.  How do they accomplish that?  Some can write a short story or novel without relying on notes.  They’re the lucky ones.  If you are like me or most writers, you use a notebook to record details that interest you the most.

These details can include someone a writer knows; a childhood memory; a thought; a conversation; an interesting statistic, fact, or quote.  They can also be used for character profiles, plot outlines, and/or research on a place, hobby, occupation the writer does not already know about-all to help them store information for a story until they are ready to begin it.

These notebooks are basically useful tools that makes writing easier (a.k.a. the reason I call it my best friend).  So, what’s worth recording?  There is no right or wrong answer.  What people find intriguing is so subjective; that is why no writer will have the same notes.  And, there’s no rule on how long a note or detail should be.

I’d like to make a suggestion though.  Select strange details.  Don’t go for the obvious ones.  Even though I call my notebook Book of Observations, my details don’t only come from what I see or hear.  It is possible to invent some details as well.

Here are some random notes that I’ve recorded in my Book of Observations:

  • “BARROW, ALASKA:  longest day starts May 10 & continues for 3 months.  Longest night starts Nov. 18 & continues for 2 months.  W/ approximately 4,500 residents, area is probably harshest polar location in Alaska.  Ocean is usually ice free from mid-June thru Oct. allowing cargo bargo to pass thru Barrow.  Polar Bears are fairly common during May & June.  They hunt seals.”
  • “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
  • “I never exaggerate.  I just remember big.”
  • ” ‘I’m not sad.  People are meant to grow old and be alone.’  Rudy revealed.  He said he hated saying good-bye to people and this was the reason why.”
  • “After Uncle George’s funeral, me and my cousins Devin, Markita, El rode to his grave site in Martinsburg.  We had to drive through Shepherdstown.  Past the light near Morgan Grove’s Park, there is a bike trail.  When we rode past, we all noticed a dead deer lying on the bike trail.  Devin’s the driver, and he yells, ‘Dang!  A bike killed a deer!’  In his delivery alone, we all laughed.  One moment of silliness during our tragic moment.”

My notebook is small enough to fit in my purse; I never know when I may need it.  What works for me won’t work for everyone.  If you decide to create one, you don’t have to necessarily carry it around.  You can remember what you found interesting during the day or night then write in your notebook when you get home.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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Creative Writing for Beginners

It boggles my mind how many times I hear people express an interest in writing a story but believe they cannot do it. When I ask them why, I always hear the same answer: No natural talent. I will just leave it up to the pros.

Say what now? Yes, you can. Writing is an art form where you can teach yourself the skills. Educate yourself. On the web, author forums provide tips from professionals and people who write as a hobby. The Absolute Write Forum is my favorite thus far. I signed up last month and have found out things in a few days then what I could have spent researching by myself for a year. It covers everything to writing fiction, nonfiction, freelancing, publishing, etc. I’m not saying you have to participate on an author forum, but it doesn’t hurt to obtain insider information on the writing industry. Plus, it’s great because all the information is located in one place (on one website). Saves a lot of time.

There are other websites and blogs specifically related to creative writing, which can be very helpful. And, they are easy to find. You just have to go to a search engine, type ‘how to write fiction’, and research the websites that interest you. If you can afford money on ink and paper, then print out what you find. For me, it is easier to jot notes down in a notebook, so I focus on just the key stuff.

What if the internet isn’t your thing? That is perfectly fine. You can go to your local library or visit a bookstore. Read books dedicated to this topic. On the other hand, when you read your favorite novels, this can help too. Make sure to pay attention to how these authors intrigued you. Study their writing approach.

The keys elements for storytelling are:

  • Character-the people in your story
  • Plot-the actions in your story
  • Point of view-how your characters perceive and interpret their surroundings
  • Setting-the places and times in your story
  • Scene-brings all the different elements together
  • Dialogue-how your characters speak
  • Voice-how you arrange words on the page
  • Beginning and Developing-how you open your story and keep the reader’s interest to the end

After researching these, you can apply what you learned by writing anything to get in the habit of exercising your mind as well as your fingers. You can write in a journal or diary. You can write short stories, essays, and letters. Write what motivates you.

If this is your first time attempting to write a short story or novel, here are some tips:

  • Do not just tell what happened as a reporter would. You need more than informing your readers with Where? When? Who? How?
  • You want to entertain your readers by setting a mood. Be descriptive. Give the answers to why things happened. You should show your readers how your characters feel. What are their motives? Give dialogue, and describe the setting.
  • With first drafts, don’t be afraid to overwrite. And, you definitely shouldn’t think about proper technique. Just focus on getting your idea down on paper. You can always edit later.

Keep smiling,
Yawatta Hosby

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